Those looking for evidence of resistance fighters ambushing German patrols, blowing up bridges and attacking other military targets in Jersey during the German Occupation will search in vain. Jersey was not like other occupied territories, where resistance movements had the space and resources with which to undertake such activities. In Jersey there was one German for every three islanders, and no clandesine Special Operations Executive co-ordinators - armed resistance was simply impossible.
But that is not to say that there were not acts of supreme bravery by islanders, which have subsequently quite correctly been classed as resistance. Historian Paul Sanders, in his book The Ultimate Sacrifice prefers to call these activities "offences against the occupying authorities" and "acts of defiance". It is estimated that some 4,000 islanders were arrested for "offences against the occupying forces", or five per cent of the population. This figure compares very favourably with those countries occupied by the Germans in Continental Europe.
Resistance or defiance in Jersey was centred around a number of activities: harbouring forced workers and others and protecting them from the Germans and listening to illegal radio sets and circulating news about the progress of the war to fellow islanders were probably the most important; other offences tried by German Courts included insulting German troops or dishonouring the Reich and the German people, stealing or receiving German goods, blackmarketeering, sabotage or 'going slow' on German work, escape attempts and weapons offences.
All were extremely risky activities and anyone who was caught faced the prospect of a prison sentence at best and possible death.
Twenty rewarded by Russians
In March 1966 20 islanders were presented with awards by the Russian Government for the assistance they gave forced workers during the Occupation. They were:
- Louisa Gould (posthumously)
- Harold Le Druillenec
- Norman Le Brocq
- Dr Robert McKinstry (posthumously)
- Leslie Huelin
- Mrs Augusta Metcalfe
- René Le Mottée
- Oswald Pallot
- Leonard Perkins
- William Sarre
- Robert Le Sueur
- Ivy Forster
- Albert Bedane
- Miss Claudia Dimitrieva
- Mike Le Cornu
- Réné Franoux
- Francis Hamon
- John Le Breton
- Royston Garrett
- Francis Le Sueur
Twenty-one Jersey residents died in German prisons and camps, to which they had been sent for acts of defiance against the occupiers of their island. Their names are rcorded on a memorial unveiled by the then Bailiff of Jersey, Sir Philip Bailhache on 9 November 1996 on the New North Quay, opposite the Occupation Tapestry Gallery in St Helier, Jersey. At first there were only 20 names, but those of Edward Peter Muels and Jack Soyer were added in 2003. In 2013 it was discovered that Walter Dauny, who was believed to have died in a German run prison in France when there was no trace of him in 1945, had actually survived and returned to England, where he died in 1989 at the age of 63. His name was wrongly inscribed on the memorial as John Dauny, and will now be removed.
- Canon Clifford Cohu - died 20 September 1944, Spergau
- Jack Nicolle - died 4 April 1944, Dortmund
- Joseph (Joe) Tierney - died April 1945, Celle
- Arthur Dimmery - died 4 April 1944, Laufen
- William Marsh - died 2 March 1945, Naumberg-an-Saale
- Frederick Page - died 5 January 1945, Naumberg-an-Saale
- Clifford Quèrèe - died 1 May 1945, Naumberg-an-Saale
- George James Fox - died 11 April 1945, Naumberg-an-Saale
- Emile Paisnel - died 29 August 1944, Naumberg-an-Saale
- Maurice Gould - died 10 October 1943, Wittlich
- Clarence Painter - died February 1945, Dora-Mitelbau
- Peter Painter - died 27 November 1944, Gross Rosen
- James Houillebecq - died 29 January 1945, Neuengaame
- Louisa Gould - died 13 February 1945, Ravensbruck
- Frank Le Vilio - died 26 September 1946, Nottingham
- Leonce Ogier - died 1 August 1943, Biberach
- Marcel Rossi - 1 May 1945, Naumberg-an-Saale
- June Sinclair - died 26 April 1943, Ravensbruck
- Peter Johnson - Missing 1945, Dora-Mittelbau
- Edward Peter Muels - 1945, Liegenhelm
- John (Jack) Soyer - 29 July 1944, Brehal
Four categories of individual
In his book Paul Sanders says that the 20 people who died out of 88 who were sent away from the island to prison or concentration camp fell into four categories:
- "The first type encompasses genuinely subversive action or open defiance, of which the dissemination of uncensored radio news was the most common manifestation. The majority of the people portrayed in this book fall into this category, the distinguishing feature of which was the sense of purpose and the selflessness with which they deliberately refused to comply with the wishes of the occupying authorities. The most openly defiant of these intrepid people was undoubtedly Canon Clifford Cohu who prioritised his determination to boost morale in the Island over his own safety.
- "The protagonists of the second category of defiance were those who reacted against the severe shortage of supply and the breakdown of a fair system of distribution through excessive German demand and who took a liberal view on German ownership rights. Most of them were neither resistance heroes nor petty criminals but in most cases ordinary people struggling for survival. Although such activities lack the element of selflessness, a summary condemnation of these people would be unfair, bearing in mind the harsh realities of occupation, which tended to push people to unconventional forms of survival. By no means should this category of 'offenders' be confused with black marketeers who were profiteering on the backs of their fellow islanders, and in all cases described here, the punishment received was disproportionate to the severity of the offences. Their severe treatment had much in common with practice in Nazi Germany where 'misdemeanours' such as turning up late for work repeatedly or alcohol addiction were included in the Nazi catalogue of anti-social behaviour.
- "In the worst possible case a denunciation could seal the offender's fate, as the police were invested with virtually unlimited power to send people to concentration camps for 're-education'.
- "The third category comprises acts perpetrated by youthful 'offenders'. These acts contained elements of defiance and were often motivated by patriotism, though not invoked by the same degree of noble intention, selflessness and reflection that characterises other acts of defiance.192 A provocative attitude typical of adolescents transcends these acts in which appear elements of ‘testing one’s courage’, 'flirting with danger' and shattering the taboos of an adult world that lay in shambles. It does not require much imagination to see why the German occupiers presented a particularly gratifying target for such dispositions that are a normal feature of all societies during all periods of history. The fact that these mostly harmless activities entailed consequences as dire as death in a concentration camp puts the tragedy of the young Jersey 'offenders' into perspective.
- "It goes without saying that the three outlined categories represent so-called 'ideal types'; many of the cases do not fall squarely into one of the outlined categories, as elements of one or more of the same can coincide. This is the case of Gould, Hassall and Audrain whose escape attempt bears some of the features of the first and the third categories.
- "A fourth category, probably the most tragic, can not be subsumed into any category of defiance at all; it encompasses people who committed no punishable acts as such, but who were 'sucked' into the system, on the basis of mere suspicion or because they belonged to a group of people that had received the label 'enemies of the Reich'. We may call them 'circumstantial victims'. Marcel Rossi was such a victim. His 'crime' was simply that he held dual Italian-British nationality and that he and his father were Jersey internees in Germany, at a time when Italians were subject to fierce countermeasures on the part of their former German ally in the autumn of 1943.
Acts of defiance
A small but determined number of islanders were determined to show the Germans that their rule was not being accepted without signs of dissent. Wires were cut, V signs painted and other 'acts of sabotage' were committed. They were not sufficient to cause the Germans any real problems, but they were calculated to annoy. The response was disproportionate, although fortunateley not on the scalel encountered in other occupied territories such as France. Occupation diarist Ralph Mollet records that whenever 'acts of sabotage' were committed, about 20 residents of the parish concerned were condemned to act as a day and night guard in the vicinity of the 'crime' for several weeks, as a punishment.
Some clandestine, although relatively trivial activities attracted such wrath from the Germans, accompanied by threats of retaliation against innocent islanders, sometimes accompanied by anonymous denunciations, that the perpetrators were foreced to confess and submit to trial and severe punishment.
Did Jerseyman Stanley Green, a cinema projectionist and keen amateur photographer, take photographs while a prisoner in Buchenwald Concentration camp and escape with them to hand them to the authorities for use in the Nuremberg war crime trials?